Getting agile practises and UX to work together in the software development world is often seen as a difficult process to master. There’s a fear that UX testing will slow things down and be costly or that there’ll be too much additional work required in order to effectively combine the two. But this isn’t necessarily the case.
How to successfully fit UX into an agile process
Firstly we need to think about how we define agile. There’s a stark difference between doing things in an agile way, compared to following a strict methodology like scrum or kanban. For UX and agile to work together efficiently, a lean process is required. Why? Working in a lean way reduces the risk of poor project outcomes, which allows teams to experiment and try new ways of working, as the consequences are much lower.
Reducing Risk With A Lean Mindset
There are two key principles when it comes to working in a lean, risk averse way.
- Keep working progress low
This means producing smaller pieces of work to create value more quickly and reap the benefits sooner. So, rather than deploying a whole project at once for example, you would deploy parts of the project in sections.
If we consider this approach in the context of a blog writer, it would be considered madness if the writer were to curate every blog post for an entire year before actually publishing any content. Instead, they’d release some content, look at the results and refine their approach and topics based on feedback in order to improve – and it’s the same with building software features.
- Find ways to get feedback fast
By delivering regularly, you can then get customer feedback in real time rather than waiting until an entire project is finished to find out your customers won’t use it or don’t understand it. Publishing everything at once, only to find out it’s not well received, is an expensive mistake to make and one that can be avoided with a lean approach.
Applying lean principles to UX & Design
So how do you make these principles work with UX and UI design. In our experience, it’s about choosing a lean design process that allows for quick testing. It’s about moving away from the idea that all interactions and designs need to be done all at once before development begins.
Yes, developers do usually need design ahead of build so they have something to work with, but this doesn’t need to be the final, all-singing-all-dancing version. Instead, we’ve found utilising the following methods an effective way of allowing you to quickly test if the designs will work.
Mapping out the initial key screens can effectively give the development team an idea of what’s required without the designer spending weeks on creating something, which may even be flawed or unusable anyway.
Taking things one step further with design prototyping, using platforms like Adobe XD for example, allows teams to see basic interactions more clearly.
Basic user research testing
User research doesn’t always need to be in an expensive research lab behind a glass screen. In order to remain lean and agile, basic user research testing can be carried out on your prototypes or wireframes to allow the user to objectively assess what they expect the interactions or screens to do and give you a basic understanding of how they might respond to these.
Whilst usability testing has its place, it can lead to a slow and expensive feedback cycle which includes not only the £10K fee for the lab time, but also the cost of finding out you need to fix something, or worse still, start again.
There’s also the opportunity to think outside of the box with so-called ‘gorilla testing’, to allow for a more efficient product development process. These new ways of testing are being created all the time.
We recently spoke to a restaurant owner who couldn’t decide between 3 restaurant premises that he’d shortlisted for his new fine-dining business. To give him a better idea, he carried out his own version of gorilla testing which included parking up outside each restaurant for a day, and measuring the number of people who walked past the restaurant, especially during lunch hours. Interestingly, he also made a note of how often these people were carrying a designer handbag. The business owner found a way to objectively measure not only the quantity of footfall but also the quality. In the end, the premise he chose was not the one he expected.
This type of outside the box thinking can add huge benefits and efficiencies to a project.
There’s a real opportunity for corporations of all sizes to evolve their development processes and slow design and testing models to create a less risky, more vigorous, agile way of product development.
Using a lean UX and agile approach is about keeping the work in progress low, getting feedback quickly and ultimately saving your business money whilst producing a product your customers will be much happier with.